(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Senate approved a $3.9 billion K-12 education formula that is virtually unchanged from the current spending plan except for an increase in teacher and staff pay.
The Minimum Foundation Program for next school year, which represents the main state contribution to education funding, increases spending by about $19 million to give teachers an $800 raise and support staff a $400 pay bump, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. Lawmakers have discussed raises of $1,000 and $500, respectively; Louisiana teachers make about $4,000 less per year on average than peers in nearby states.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 passed unanimously with little discussion and no debate.
Only the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education can alter the MFP. The Legislature can approve or reject the funding formula but generally cannot change it.
If the session ends without a new MFP, the current one will stay in place.
In other legislative action Monday:
• The House approved House Bill 487, by Rep. Michael Echols, R-Monroe. It would let legislators reduce spending that is dedicated by law or the constitution to avoid a budget deficit by up to 20%. The current limit is 5%.
Echols said he wanted to give lawmakers more options when the budget must be cut. Much of Louisiana’s spending is protected by law or the constitution, which often leads to higher education and health care often bearing the brunt of the cuts.
• Senators voted not to accept House amendments to Senate Bill 159, which calls for setting a maximum state income tax rate of 4.75% in the state constitution – the current top rate is 6% – and removing from the constitution the provision calling for a state income tax reduction for federal income taxes paid. The bill will go to a conference between the House and Senate, along with other bills changing the state’s tax structure to work out a final overhaul package.
• The House approved House Resolution 1 by Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia. It calls for a study of the potential impact of legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use.
David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.